Synopsis

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On a wintry morning many years ago, the strains of a march sound out as King Arthur's court parades forth to greet the arrival of Guenevere, the King's bride. Everyone is on hand except Arthur himself, who is as nervous as any bridegroom, singing I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight. Guenevere is more romantically inclined but equally uncertain. She dodges the welcoming committee and hides, wondering where are The Simple Joys of Maidenhood. When she and Arthur meet unexpectedly, without recognizing each other, he outlines the pleasures of life at Camelot. Upon introducing themselves, they find themselves charmed, and go forth happily to the wedding.

   Arthur's tutor, the magician Merlyn, is lured away from Camelot by the spirit of Nimue, who sings Follow Me. But Arthur has learned the wisdom of peaceful ways from Merlyn, and brings tranquillity and justice to his domain with the establishment of the celebrated Round Table. News of the Table even crosses to France, engaging the sympathies of young Lancelot, who arrives at Camelot proclaiming his intentions in C'est Moi.

   Arthur introduces Lancelot to Guenevere and the court at a castle outing held during The Lusty Month of May. Lancelot is insufferable, and everyone, especially the Queen, takes an instant dislike to him. Guenevere goes so far as to make sport of him through her invitations to three Round Table knights in Then You May Take Me to the Fair. When the knights are challenged to joust with Lancelot, Guenevere permits them to wear her kerchief as a token of favor. The King tries to dissuade her from siding with the court against Lancelot, but she is adamant, and even King Arthur himself is forced to wonder How To Handle a Woman.

   Lancelot is victorious in the jousts, and exhibits a strange power of purity and faith that gradually wins the respect of the court. His feelings toward Guenevere speedily develop into a deep but silent love, which wars with his great affection for Arthur. To ease his conflict of emotions, Lancelot asks Arthur's leave to depart on quests, and Guenevere ponders what may happen Before I Gaze at You Again. Two years pass before Lancelot's return, when Arthur invests him with Knighthood of the Round Table. Lancelot reveals his love in If Ever I Would Leave You, but he and Guenevere still strive to conceal their situation from Arthur. Arthur, however, is aware of their feelings, but submerges his resentment to preserve peace in Camelot.

   Arthur's illegitimate son, Mordred, arrives at Camelot and attempts to dishonor the King in order to ascend the throne in his place. Mordred loathes Arthur's dreams of peace with honor and sneers at The Seven Deadly Virtues. Guenevere, still faithful to Arthur, tries to help him make light of royalty's burdens in What Do the Simple Folk Do?

   The Knights of the Round Table grow restless with perpetual peace and inaction and cry Fie on Goodness! Through a ruse of Mordred's, Arthur is trapped in the enchanted forest of Morgan le Fey overnight while Lancelot visits Guenevere in her chambers, where she confesses I Loved You Once in Silence. Mordred bursts into the room with a group of knights, accusing Guenevere of treason. Lancelot escapes, but she is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake under the code of justice Arthur has worked so long to establish (Guenevere). At the last moment Lancelot rescues her and takes her to France, and Arthur is at last forced to make war on his friend. Just before the final battle, he meets them both, and generously forgives them.

   Moments before the battle begins, Arthur discovers a young stowaway who aspires to join the Round Table. Arthur knights the boy in the field and sends him back to England, charging him, when he grows up, to tell another generation of the noble ideals of Camelot.



- George Dale

Transcribed by Erin Tatge (tatgeer@earlham.edu)


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